Five Things You Didn't Know About Hypnotism

I am working on the Ripper sequel and, like every good Victorian drama, mine has to have a hypnosis scene. To make certain that my scene doesn’t fall into any cliché movie scenes—“you are getting sleepy”—I did some research. I found Derek Forrest’s Hypnotism: A History to be particularly helpful. Here are some interesting and quirky things I learned:

  1. German-born Anton Mesmer, the father of mesmerism/animal magnetism, practiced in Vienna and then in Paris in the courts of Marie Antoinette. He was close to the Mozart family and used an iron wand for some of his procedures. No really, he did. I wonder if Ollivanders sells that wand.
  2. The poet Percy Shelley wrote occasionally while in a trance, but he had to stop the mesmerism when his sleepwalking began annoying his wife, Mary Shelley.
  3. Alexandre Dumas was a fan of mesmerism.
  4. Feminist Victorian writer, Harriet Martineau, also loved mesmerism—even claiming that when a veterinarian failed to cure the cow, the animal was revived through mesmerism. I love her quote about the incident: “I am fond of my cow and stand up for her good qualities, but I cannot boast of any imaginative faculty in her.” Ummm…can’t say that I’ve ever known an “imaginative” cow.
  5. Finally, the Scottish physician, the “father of hypnosis” James Braid, could hypnotize his wife with a sugar bowl. Perhaps this is the  key to a happy marriage!